As adults, many of us view the outdoors as an opportunity — a reprieve from the stress of our jobs and the rut that comes with our daily lives. The outdoors are certainly a means of getting much-needed rest and relaxation. But an excursion into Mother Nature can go much deeper. It's a perfect opportunity to spend quality time with the family.
There are outdoor destinations aplenty throughout the Ouachitas, but one would be hard-pressed to find a location more family friendly than our state parks. There are 52 of these facilities dispersed throughout the state. And it just so happens we have three of the finest within minutes of Hot Springs.
Nestled on the banks of Lake Ouachita, Lake Ouachita State Park is a great destination. Sporting 101 campsites, it provides camping enthusiasts with ample opportunities to experience stays in a beautiful setting. The park also offers fully equipped “contemporary style” cabins.
With 4.5 miles of trails on the premises, parents will have ample opportunity to embark upon a hike with their offspring, while getting better acquainted with terrain typical of the Ouachitas.
Lake Ouachita State Park offers a plethora of interpretive programs throughout the spring, summer and fall. Many of these programs are geared toward education. By no means, however, does this mean they only cater to youngsters, as the park offers barge tours on a regular basis.
With a marina and boat rentals on site, Lake Ouachita State Park is a great starting point for those wishing to try their hand at coaxing fish from one of Arkansas' premier reservoirs.
Sporting 70 campsites and 20 cabins, Lake Catherine State Park is also a great family destination. Along with providing ample opportunity to embark upon an extended stay surrounded by Mother Nature, that facility is noted for its trail systems.
With four designated paths on site, it offers just more than 10 miles of hiking opportunities. Each of these paths vary in difficulty levels, lending an opportunity for folks
of all physical capabilities and ages to embark upon a journey into the forest.
Although all of the routes are well worth experiencing, Falls Branch Trail is likely the most popular destination, and rightfully so. Running alongside the lake's shoreline for a distance, the designated path eventually makes its way within a stone's throw of a beautiful waterfall pouring over a bluffline and into a pool below. The water spectacle is one the largest throughout the Ouachitas and is a sight to behold, especially after a significant rain.
The third facility located less than one hour from Hot Springs, DeGray Lake State Park also offers wonderful lakeside views and has a world of activities awaiting visitors.
Although not offering cabins, the facility certainly doesn't lack luxury. In fact, they have a lodge unsurpassed. Those wishing to do an overnighter with access to satellite television, Internet and a plethora of other amenities might consider DeGray as a destination. A restaurant is also located at the lodge.
The park offers camping opportunities galore, boasting 113 campsites with water and electrical hookups. But even those who are into primitive camping will be catered to. One might consider a stay in one of the facility's YURTs, a high-walled tent with electricity, wood floors and screened-in windows.
DeGray Lake State Park has no shortage of trails. With six on site, one can easily find an adventure to suit their fancy. Each designated path is fairly short in distance ranging anywhere from 0.5 to one mile in length, all of which are easy to moderate in difficulty levels.
When it comes to activities, DeGray Lake State Park is the bomb! Although the eagle watch tours will be on the verge of wrapping up by the time this article hits the press, they will still have plenty to keep the family entertained throughout the entire spring and summer months.
Offering an array of interpretive programs and lake cruise tours, DeGray Lake is a popular family destination. I've had the opportunity to experience several of its programs throughout the years, and won't go without mentioning my two personal favorites — Dutch-oven cooking and snorkeling.
One can rent various water crafts from the marina. Just a casual boat ride will likely prove right down some people's alley, but those with a passion for fishing will have 13,800 acres of prime waters at their disposal.
Of course, black bass and crappie are likely the most-pursued species, but I can't think of anything more exciting than being on the water when the hybrids go into a breaking frenzy.
With three magnificent state parks right here in our backyards, there's no excuse. It's time to gather up the family and embark upon an educational and enjoyable excursion into the wonderful outdoors.
Our local state parks offer plenty of trails that can be enjoyed by the entire family.
Lake Ouachita, DeGray Lake and Lake Catherine state parks are all three located on the banks of productive waters, lending to opportunities to introduce children to the sport of fishing.
Our local state parks are a great destination for those wishing to spend quality time with their families in the outdoors.